Apr 24, 2007

Sports world honors VT

by Jared Pierce, Asst. Sports Editor
As Anaheim Angels pitcher Joe Saunders stood in front of thousands of waiting fans, he calmly scratched the letters “VT” on the back of the mound with his cleats.

Saunders, who at the time was the only Hokie in the major leagues, turned to face the plate with a heavy heart and a Hokie hat on his head.

Saunders honored the Virginia Tech students killed during Monday’s horrific attack the best way he knew how — by playing through the pain. The rest of the sports world followed suit.
When tragedy strikes, the sports world responds. Whether it is a simple moment of silence before a game or a small symbol on the back of a helmet, athletes and coaches at all levels understand the importance of national tragedies and have the ability to put them into perspective. They know that a baseball or football game may be the only couple of hours during a long day that a bewildered friend or family can smile.

More than a few times over the past week, sports teams and organizations have honored and remembered the victims of last Monday’s tragedy.

The Washington Nationals took the field on Tuesday evening, donning Virginia Tech hats, and NASCAR drivers will race with the Virginia Tech logo on their driver-side windows for the next few races.

Major League Soccer team Houston Dynamo will wear maroon jerseys instead of its usual orange jerseys during its April 29 game against the Chicago Fire. The uniforms will be auctioned off following the game, and $8 from every ticket sold will go to Virginia  Tech’s Hokie Spirit Mem-orial Fund.
On the PGA Tour, 32 golfers wore Virginia Tech hats instead of their usual sponsored Titleist hats during the Zurich Open over the weekend.

After pitching his first career no-hitter, Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle wore a Virginia Tech hat during his post-game interview. NBA and Major League Baseball teams across the country held a moment of silence before their games.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, which Virginia Tech holds membership in, will have signs at all upcoming spring championships.

The sign will contain a black ribbon with the logos of all other ACC schools surrounding it.
Penn State University honored the victims of Virginia Tech during its spring football game.
Hundreds of students that attended the game sat in a specific section and wore maroon and orange shirts to spell out “VT” in the stands.

The Penn State band played “Amazing Grace” as the family of shooting victim Jeremy Herbstritt watched in the stands. Herbstritt grew up only minutes from the stadium. He earned two degrees from Penn State and was pursuing a master’s degree at Virginia Tech at the time of his death.
Perhaps the most moving tribute came from the University of Miami, one of Virginia Tech’s fiercest rivals.

On Wednesday evening, Miami held a vigil for the victims, during which the chant of “Let’s go, Hokies!” broke out among the die-hard Hurricane fans. As a further aid effort, the Hurricanes presented Virginia Tech with a $10,000 check before Friday evening’s baseball game in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech Head Football Coach Frank Beamer, who has been at the school since 1987 and is an alumnus, cancelled the team’s spring game that was to be played on Saturday. He believed it was too early for football.

Liberty University paid tribute as well. During Saturday’s spring football game, the players wore maroon and black wristbands to honor the victims. The Lady Flames softball team painted the Virginia Tech athletic logo on their faces and on the outfield grass, and the baseball team posted the same symbol on the back of their helmets.

The sports world should be proud of the way it handled last Monday’s events. The dignity, reverence and respect shown for the victims has been inspiring.

The response should be all the more important to us because we can get lost in the world of sports, so sucked into division standings and box scores that we forget the truly important events in our lives.

Last week’s tribute teaches us that sports can transcend language or race, but it is never above real-life tragedy.

Contact Jared Pierce at jpierce2@liberty.edu.
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